Monday, October 29, 2007

Of winter and warmth

As I am a native of the northern portion of the United States one would reasonably assume that I have, before this my twenty-third year, acclimated to cold weather. Unfortunately, I adapt much more readily to the warmth of the summers and the readjustment which is necessary around the end of September is slow and painful if it happens at all. In previous years, I have worked and lived in an environment which encourages and even pesters one to consume as many hot drinks as possible throughout the day. Now that I am in a position in which I pay for my own coffee habit, I drink far less and find that I must fall back on the time-honored method of fighting the cold by bundling up. This past weekend I accordingly began to fill in the cracks in my winter wear. Sitting on top of my suitcase, where they are quickly and easily accessible are now three different scarves (I brought two with me) to suit the different levels of dressiness, three different pairs of gloves (one pair for bicycling which makes me feel very athletic), and a stocking cap. Inside the wardrobe which stands next to the suitcase is a gorgeous new wool Mantel. I use the German word Mantel because it describes a long coat (at least to the knee) and implies that without it you will be cold. So now I am up to 4 different coats here (not including hoodies or sweaters) and I am still fighting the cold. It's coffee in the morning, wine in the evening, thick socks, four layers at a time and hopping into bet as quickly as possible. I think that my next adventure will be teaching English in the Bahamas.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I am officially spoiled

I realized today that one of the reasons I don't gush about Felix and Carolin is not because they aren't cute and charming, but because I have a very bad habit of comparing them to Will and Coal. Anyone who saw me on Thursdays last year has met Coal (and possibly Will as well) and can understand why this comparison would make anyone feel bad. Comparing is never flattering and often offensive, so needless to say, I try to stifle these tendencies. But I have to tell you something now about Will and Coal. Today I got a pretty large care package from the Taylor Family. On the top of the package were three paper airplanes and an invitation to Coal's birthday which was in August. One of the airplanes had instructions on the side of it telling me that if I opened the folds I would find "a bunch of bugs." I did as I was told and found a crayon picture of squished bugs! How entertaining is the mind of an eight year old. Along with pictures and even a couple of exemplary homework-themed enclosures I got some of the my personal favorites from home: coffee from Wandering Goat, Chai Tea, and popcorn! I won't list all of the things that were in the box because it would take too long, but I will simply declare myself delighted, overjoyed, and honored to know such wonderful and generous people. Every time I receive something from the people at home whether it is an email, letter, package, or even just a comment here it brings not just a smile to my face but one of those stupidly-big-showing-most-my-teeth-and-some-of-my-gums smiles. So thank all of you, for reading and for thinking of me. I am honored and spoiled by your affection.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Really, they are cute

I rarely remember to talk about my two children (just when you thought you knew me). Part of the reason is because it is often so stressful and exhausting to care for such young people that by the end of the day I don't want to have to think about them anymore. Yes, that is a bit callous, but remember, they are not actually my kids, and I have only known them for three months so the whole love aspect is still forthcoming. Besides all of that though, they are cute. Felix is the most adorable child I have ever seen when he is sleeping on my shoulder. He's not so cute when he's pulling my hair to distract himself from crying. Every week I notice that his face is getting older. He sits with us at the dinner table propped up in his highchair with a pillow and tries very hard to be as grown up as the rest of us (quite a feat considering he is only five months old) i.e. he whines or grunts until one of us give him a bottle or a spoon to play with because he hasn't mastered consuming anything other than breast milk so far. Carolin has her own brand of living and play. Most of her conversation ist total Quatsch (nonsense) and it is also virtually non-stop. But some of the things she says and the way her mind works is hilarious. Today she tore a kleenex in half (because we, as a good European household conserve our resources), and proclaimed, "Schau mal heir, wie stark bin ich!" (check out how strong I am). So really, as exhausting as they are, they're cute.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

My week

When I began this blog I promised occasional updates. So far, I have been impressed with how often I have publicized my thoughts and the events in my life, but this week everything went blank. I suppose it is a sign of being settled in that I could possibly have such a bland week, but such has been the past eight days. I have been sick with a persistent cold at least since the beginning of the month, and have had a difficult time keeping warm here, but those two things have been of such duration that I would not consider them eventful. Really, that's all I have to say. Things here are going swimmingly. Yesterday Carolin called me Anja (that was the previous au pair) twice, and I took it as a very good sign that I get to be unconsciously associated with someone she so obviously adores. Beyond that, I miss news from home, so please, if you read this, give me an update on your life. I still miss everyone, and hopefully it won't be quite so long before I write again.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


This evening brought me exquisite joy. There were very many things that made it particularly wonderful. I hadn't realized that Fate was so good at multitasking. I originally wrote this blog four or so hours ago, but the even got even better so I decided to change the whole post instead of posting again. To start my evening, I called my best friend on the off chance that she would be available, have her phone with her, and not screen the unknown number. I was in the deepest of luck. Most of my communication with all you that I love has been written either electronically or handwritten. This is an extremely efficient way of keeping up with the people you love, but unfortunately intonation and even some measure of personality gets lost in the transition to stale paper. Getting to hear her voice made me laugh like I haven't laughed much since I got here. While I was talking to her Over the Rhine was playing on my speakers and out the window was one of the most stunning sunsets I have yet beheld here in Germany. After a wonderful half hour of talking with her, I went downtown to retrieve my bicycle which I had left there a couple of days ago and decided to risk it and ride it back. You see, I don't yet have lights on my bike and that is illegal after dark, and apparently they fine you a nice little wad if they catch you, but I yet again eluded the authorities and arrived home ticketless. At home I packed myself a thermos of hot chocolate, an apple, bundled up, scoured the house for a flashlight (I found two), and headed down my tree lined path to find a clearing from which to watch the stars. After some minimal rambling I landed in a little courtyard near the soccer fields and laid down with some good music and and open eyes. I sat there for about an hour and a half. Quiet, gentle, freezing cold, I burned my tongue on the chocolate and lay there thinking about the fact that really Germany isn't too bad, that these are the moments in life that make it all seem like someone else's romanticized adventure, and that it had been far too long since I had watched the stars.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


They say that looking through a woman's purse is like glancing through her life; or if they don't say that, they should. I don't really have a regular purse at the moment, but today I realized that the contents of my pockets have reflectively evolved. Whereas I previously toted cash, a Full City card, my house keys, and a cell phone, these days the assortment is slightly different. I still carry my house keys (on the same old flip-flop key chain that I used all last year), because I really need them to get in and occasionally out of the house, but I also always carry a small stone. I found it over a year ago either on the shores of Lake Michigan or the Oregon coast, I don't remember beyond the fact that I was with my family in a place that I absolutely love. The stone is about the size of a fifty cent piece in diameter, but at least twice as thick, and worn smooth by the countless times I have fumbled with it. There's nothing extraordinary about the rock when you look at it (sorry family, it's not a petoskey), but it is a piece of home that I have with me always, and as such has become rather sentimental. It would be the perfect skipping stone, but I'm not ready yet to fling it away from me. The other interesting thing that has begun to make a semi-regular appearance in my pocket is a tissue. I know that this is common in pockets all over the world, but had someone asked me a year ago whether I would ever carry a kleenex in my pocket I would have confidently asserted that such would never be my lot. I remember that as a kid I noticed my grandparents always carried tissues in their pockets. This practice always disgusted me even if they were clean. Just the idea of putting...well, that... back in your pocket sent a spark up, and right back down my spine. This morning when I went to put my keys and my rock in my pocket I found the place already occupied by a kleenex. Even though I know it is purely practical because the weather here has me constantly in sniffles I found myself slightly aghast. I have skipped over becoming my mother and moved straight on to becoming my grandmother.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Comfort foods

Monday is my day to watch Felix in the morning as well as working the afternoon. I must say, the boy just keeps getting cuter. He makes the funniest facial expressions which are primarily comical because they mirror my own face. Today I decided to have lunch ready for Sabine when she got back from work... no mean task with a five month old on your arm, I find. The lad is getting sick, so he begs for a lot more cuddling and attention than usual. Anyway, I'm still not very comfortable in the kitchen in general and especially in one that is not my own so I decided to make something very simple. Yep. Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Still, there is room for me to be proud of myself. Having been thoroughly propagandized by Campbell's, I had never made the soup from tomato puree. A little cream, a little milk, thyme and salt and it's not half bad. Grilled cheese I have had down for a long time, but guess what? not too much cheddar in Germany, so (read in a sarcastic "oh darn" here) I was forced to use Edamer. Yummmy. And today was a good day for that meal. It's been droopingly gray for a couple of days now, and things are just cold enough to justify that warm scratchiness that always comes as the soup slides down your throat. I served it up explaining that it is the quintessential American comfort food. She liked it.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

I'm in love...

Everyone told me to not fall in love while I am over here because I will never come back. Sorry. Too late. I am in love. He's a little bit defensive, but I think we can work through it. Yes, my friends, I saw another hedgehog. This time I petted him and even took his picture to prove that I saw one. This guy met me on a street corner in Lauf just after sunset. How romantic. Really, how could a girl not fall for such deep brown eyes!

Returned (the full story)

Yes, my dears, I am safely and sanely back from my travels to the charming land of Bayern (southern Deutschland). I arrived last night around 9:00, took a shower, looked over the emails that I won't have a chance to answer for another several days, answered one or two of them, puttered around some more and finally went to bed. So today, when I have barely more time, I will try to tell you all of my doings in Lauf and Nürnberg. Friday afternoon Holger, Sabine, Carolin, Felix and I crowded into their Volkswagen and began the eight hour drive to Holger's mother's apartment in Lauf. We arrived fairly late and I stumbled into bed. The next morning we awoke, had breakfast, met up with Sabine's sister who is visiting from South Carolina with her twins and her husband, and went to Nürnberg which is only about fifteen or twenty minutes away. Holger and Sabine bought me some gingerbread cookies, handed me my train ticket, and sent me on my wanderings about the city after having pointed the way both toward the train station and the castle. Yes, the castle. I saw my first real-live castle. That first day I toured the castle, climbed the castle tower (96 frighteningly narrow steps), walked through one of the three major churches, and had a traditional wurst, kraut, dense bread, and beer dinner in the locals' pub. Sunday I met Sabine's entire family and got a personal tour of the city's ancient water wheel from her dad, who headed up the restoration project, and an extensive personal walking tour of the whole town of Lauf from Holger's mom. I'm telling you, this is the way to do tours. I was utterly charmed by Lauf. Monday, I went back to Nürnberg and walked around, looked at another church, had professionally made European drinking chocolate, and did some shopping and reading. After all of that, I don't precisely recall the order of things that happened, but suffice it to say, I had a great time. Every evening when I got back from my wanderings I would sit down for a glass of wine with Sabine, Holger, and his mother and we would talk. This is a really good thing for me particularly since I have had a very difficult time feeling at ease around Holger and Sabine in a more equal environment, i.e. when I am not just the care-taker, but am a traveler, or a person interested in history or any number of the other aspects which comprise me-ness. All in all, it was a wonderful five days. I could get used to this whole travel around with nothing to do but take in the sights and go on tours!